Sir Richard Best

This is a transcription of the narration to the video tribute to Dick, as an epilogue to 'Ten Years of Friendship' presentation which was given in the Village Hall in May 2007, to mark the tenth anniversary of the charity's founding. This was written
at a time when Dick was still with us.

To view an excerpt of the video
click right; and the full video can
be purchased from our STORE . . .

 

A Tribute to Dick

That the Friends have been so successful, socially and financially, is due in no small part to one person - a person who has been the most prominent in all the progress of the charity, just as he was in the setting up of it.

Sir Richard Best - Dick to all of his friends, has been similarly influential in many village and Parish affairs since his retirement, in his roles as churchwarden at Patching, member of the PCC, Chairman of the Parish Council and Chairman of the Friends of Clapham & Patching Churches. He is respected, valued and loved by the whole community.

But - how well do we really know him? Do we know just how colourful and celebrated a career he has led? Do we know
what exotic locations he and Mary have lived in over the years? Let us go back in time, some 40 years, to a time when Holly Howe (seen below) was called 'Oddicombe'.

Early Years

After graduating from London University with an honours degree in history, Dick joined the Home Office. He later transferred to the Foreign Commonwealth Office and in 1969 was sent out to the British High Commission in Lusaka, Zambia in the role of Information Officer.

When they returned to England on leave, they decided to sell their house in Tonbridge and seek to buy a property in the Patching area, close both to Mary's family in East Preston and also Dick's mother who was at the time living in Meadow Cottage, France Lane, Patching. When 'Oddicombe' in The Street came on the market, they jumped at the chance to buy it, and renamed it 'Holly Howe'.

Stockholm

In 1972, Dick and Mary were posted to Stockholm where Dick spent four years at the British Embassy looking after economic affairs. John was born there in 1973. In 1976 they returned to Patching for a three year period during which Dick commuted to London working in the Foreign Commonwealth Office personnel department. Back home, both Dick and Mary joined the PCC, thus beginning their involvement with Patching life.

India

In 1979 they were next posted to India, where for four years Dick was First Secretary/ Commercial, being head of the commercial department in the British High Commission in New Delhi, dealing with trade missions and British businessmen
seeking opportunities in India.


Kaduna

After a further 18 month spell in London, in 1984 Dick was appointed Deputy High Commissioner and Head of Post in Kaduna - 'Place of Crocodiles' in Northern Nigeria, looking after expatriates and joining in their social life, centred on clubs - polo, rugby and cricket; promoting trade
and helping with the aid programme. Dick also had to call on local rulers, notably the Sultan of Sokoto who had ruled his kingdom in northern Nigeria for 50 years. The highlight of this posting was possibly Margaret Thatcher's visit to Kano.

Before being sent to his next post, in Iceland, Dick was awarded the CBE in 1989.

Iceland

Settled into the Embassy at Reykjavik, in this beautiful part of the world, Dick, as Ambassador to Iceland, was in charge of the Queen's state visit in 1990, and he accompanied her on many engagements, including the moment when the Queen was enveloped in sulphur spray from a geyser whilst crossing a boardwalk.

Mary and Dick were privileged to spend two nights on the Royal Yacht Britannia as honorary members of the royal household. Mary describes the Royal yacht as "homely . . . not nearly as ornate as one would expect."  Following the State Visit, Dick was knighted by the Queen in recognition of his services during the royal visit.

(Continued in next column . . . )

 

Dressing Up/Dramatics

This heady career is well-documented, but certain aspects of Dick's character are less apparent, and perhaps rightly so. We can reveal here that he has a secret penchant for 'dressing up'. This started at an early age and progressed during his postings in Stockholm and his excursions in amateur dramatics (which were transparent excuses for dressing up). He developed an urge to wear silly hats, which continues to this day. On stage, he moved into colourful coats, more silly hats and latterly, black pop-socks!

His particular favourite couture - white dress naval outfits - won him a bit-part in Richard Attenborough's film 'Gandhi' alongside Ben Kingsley and Sir John Mills, filmed entirely in India.
Don't blink - and concentrate, or you'll miss him. This is character acting at its finest; just look at that stoical visage (main photo above, nearest
to the red chair at the back).
It completely sums up in
one expression the British attitude at the time towards the Indian insurrection.

Drinks

In compiling these family snapshots of Dick's life and work, we noticed a recurring feature. 'Left hand in pocket and a glass in the other'!
If not glass in hand, a wine bottle is often to be found nearby, and Dick is even prepared to shamelessly sponsor commercial beverages to get ahead
in his career.

Not surprising then that he was type-cast as 'Lord Hangover' - Cinderella's father in a 1988 amateur production in Kaduna.

                                             Brain of Britain

In marked contrast to his dramatic ebullience, Dick is somewhat reticent about other triumphs in his past life. In 1966 he was the national winner of 'Brain of Britain' the popular BBC radio general knowledge quiz hosted by Robert Robinson. His invitation to London by the BBC, his progress through early rounds, semi-finals and his winning of the grand final, was chronicled by various local and national newspapers, and he became the toast of intellectual and social circles. Now you all know why he is the past-master at compiling questions at our villages' quiz-nights!

Epilogue

In 1991 Mary and Dick returned to Patching and settled down to rural life in Britain although Dick did not fully retire from the Foreign Office until 1996. They both found the adjustment easy
to make and became fully involved in all aspects of local life. Just as Dick's activities with the church, Parish Council and Friends charity was wholehearted, so was Mary's involvement as President of the PTA of the Clapham & Patching School, with the WI Committee as well as Christian Aid and the RNIB. Just as her teamwork with Dick in all his postings throughout the world worked perfectly, so it continued to do here in our small corner of Sussex.
They are the consummate partnership and their family
the perfect success story.

This personal success reflects the success of Dick's brainchild, the Friends' Charity. Whilst its nature is completely local - related solely to two ancient buildings less than a mile apart
and to their surrounding communities, Dick's rather more widespread, colourful and educated background in diplomacy and organisation
has provided an irreplaceable sense of wisdom and
sure-handedness - steering us to our charity's own success.

 

In 1995, Sir Richard Best, churchwarden of St John the Divine Church, Patching, responded to an appeal from the Parochial Church Council, to tackle the C.of E.'s failing ability to maintain the two churches of Clapham and Patching.

His response was to propose a 'Friends' Charity, dedicated
to supporting the two 12th century Grade I listed buildings, by raising funds for their "upkeep and beautification".

In late 1996 this Registered Charity was instituted, with a committee of dedicated villagers, a constitution and a fresh resolve to safeguard the churches for current and future village residents and for following generations. Events were enthusiastically arranged for fund-raising for the charity and also as a new drive to enhance our community spirit.

Sadly Dick passed away in 2014, but his chairmanship of the Friends' charity leaves a legacy of care which lives on today.

Caring for our two lovely 12th century Downland churches

THE FRIENDS OF CLAPHAM & PATCHING CHURCHES

St. Mary the Virgin, Clapham

St. John the Divine, Patching

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